Bernard Orsman is Super City reporter for the NZ Herald.

Concrete 'monstrosity' stands idle on beachfront

Many residents are opposed to the development on the corner of Tamaki Drive and Maheke St in St Heliers Bay.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Many residents are opposed to the development on the corner of Tamaki Drive and Maheke St in St Heliers Bay. Photo / Dean Purcell

A "concrete monstrosity" that has upset the seaside community of St Heliers remains largely empty four months after it was opened by developer Robin Sheffield.

The three-storey complex right on the beachfront at Tamaki Drive has several "For Lease" signs on the outside and just one tenant, Westpac Bank, at street level.

The contemporary structure is coming to symbolise community anger against the loss of traditional shopping villages and a fightback against developers altering the landscape for commercial gain.

"We hope the building remains empty forever," said Dr Gabriel Reid, of Save Our St Heliers, a group set up the preserve the low-rise character of the seaside village.

Save our St Heliers have bitterly opposed the beachfront complex and a three-stage development which includes both sides of Turua St and the New Zealand Post building in the heart of the shopping centre.

Developer Mike Markham caused a public uproar last year when he demolished three Spanish mission-style homes in Turua St for the development.

"If people like Mr Sheffield and Mr Markham are determined to rescale St Heliers then they should expect many members of the community will feel very hostile to their businesses.

"It would be a brave tenant who would move into such an environment," Dr Reid said.

It is understood that the owners of a successful string of cafes have pulled out of setting up in the building on the corner of Tamaki Drive and Maheke St. The cafe owners did not want to comment yesterday.

Mr Sheffield said yesterday it was incorrect to say he was having difficulty finding tenants for his commercial, retail and residential development.

"I have had enough of the community and the building," he said.

Mr Sheffield opposed the St Heliers Village Centre Plan that aimed to preserve traditional structures and groups of character buildings.

In 2007 he said it was important to allow development to prevent stagnation.

"I don't believe you can freeze the built-in environment. Otherwise we'd end up working out of weatherboard fishing shacks," he said at the time.

Yesterday at the Village Co-op cafe next door to the Maheke St development, St Heliers resident Joan Howie said the new building was jinxed.

"It's hideous. It's empty. What does that say?"

Another customer said the building was pretty cool and would eventually fill with tenants.

- NZ Herald

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